Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy retirement, Carmen!

When do you retire a doe? Although I can give some benchmarks that are easy to measure -- like, when she can't maintain her body condition after kidding -- I've discovered this year that I have a much more instinctual method for deciding when to retire does. I'm not saying it's good or that I'm always making the best business decision, but it feels right, so I'm going to go with it. Maybe it's more emotional than instinctual?

I've decided that I won't be breeding ARMCH Antiquity Oaks Carmen *D 1*M again. In the back of my head, I can't help but think that it has something to do with the death of Coco following kidding last spring. Coco is the doeling in the background of this picture with Carmen from 2004 when they were born -- and then both promptly tried to die on me. They were the first goats that ever tried to to die on my farm, and I was beyond thrilled when I was able to beat death, in spite of my inexperience and ignorance.

Carmen was a tiny triplet that was born when no one was in the barn, and when we found her, she looked dead. Her two big brothers were both up and nursing, but this tiny little gold and white doe laid seemingly lifeless in the straw. Even though I had never seen a kid with hypothermia, I realized immediately that it was her main problem, and I told my children to bring me a bucket of warm water. I didn't want to take her away from her mother, naively thinking that this tiny, weak doeling would be able to compete with two big healthy bucklings for her dam's two teats. I called my mentor who told me to milk the dam and feed her colostrum to the tiny kid with a stomach tube. I felt like I had two left hands, and I was terrified of accidentally putting the colostrum into her lungs, but somehow I managed to do it correctly.

And so Carmen became our first house goat. She was not able to stand for a couple of days, but it didn't take us long to realize that she was a lovely little doe. In the back of my head, I thought that I must be incredibly biased. After all, what are the odds that one of our first kids would actually be a really beautiful goat? When my daughters started showing, no one was more surprised than me when Carmen took her first grand champion ribbon. And then she won again and again and became a finished champion.

It was not all smooth sailing though. We had recently gone on milk test when my daughters took the goats to a show where they all contracted pinkeye, but none had it worse than Carmen. Within a few days she was completely blind and just stood in the corner of the barn, not eating, and losing weight, as her milk supply plummeted. I saw my dream of my first homegrown doe earning a milk star vanishing. But after two weeks, the pinkeye was finally nothing more than a bad memory as Carmen regained her vision completely. And amazingly enough, her supply was able to rebound enough that she squeaked by to earn her milk star that year!

Carmen has always had her mother's ease with birthing, completely surprising us as a first freshener, kidding with a single doeling in the pasture when no one was around. That kid, Lizzie, is still with us and has been our second-best milker for three years. I realized last year that I had not kept any other Carmen daughters, so decided to keep Rosie, her doeling from last year.

One of my favorite things about Carmen is that she is an easy keeper. She has great parasite resistance and so does Lizzie, so I'm hoping Rosie follows in her Mama's and Auntie's hoofsteps. She was born last August and so far has never needed a dewormer, so I'm very hopeful.

As I write all of this, a tiny voice asks, "Why aren't you going to breed her again?" She'll be ten years old next spring, and although she is in excellent health and would most likely give birth easily again, it just feels right to retire her. She gave me hundreds of gallons of milk over the years, as well as Lizzie and Rosie, and to ask for more just seems like it would be greedy. So Carmen will be spending her golden years out in the pasture with her daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughters, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

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